Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mort and Me Walk The Line





I belonged to Kit Carson Riding Club in the 70's. The arena was a scant 1/2 mile from my stable. I loved competing in the Friday night gymkhana. When I first started showing Mort it was mainly a matter of hang on, point and pray for each event.

Since he ran away with me every time I let him loose we had plenty of speed, but had a tendency to leave barrels rolling and poles winging through the air.

The first event we conquered was 75 Up and Back. All we had to do was get around one barrel. Flags was next. Once again all we had to do was fly past a couple of barrels and I had to let go long enough to ram my flag in one bucket and out of the other.

The other events had me stymied.

Once a month we had a day show on Sundays. The "morning events" were something I could only look at and envy. In my own special, poisonous, bitter and jealous way.

The kids who rode in the morning events could really control their horses. Their horses would calmly, coolly tool around the ring, listening to every command like magic. Their horse took their leads. They backed up.
It killed me to think there was some magic touch I just didn't have. That my horse wasn't good enough, or I was just too thick to know how to get the job done.
Sometimes they had two horses. One for the morning and one for the speed events in the afternoon. I learned this was because they didn't want their "morning event" horse to get hot.

Get hot? C'mon already, Mort and I were born to boil. I decided I just didn't care. We liked to run, so we did. I ignored all those morning kids and teased my friend Karen because her mom wouldn't let her run her "morning horse" in the speed events. I had to make myself feel better somehow.

But I wanted to know what I was rejecting. I wanted to know how they magically got their horses to listen.

My first big break through came from listening in on a barrel racing lesson at a 4-H meeting (There was no such thing as a clinic back then, imagine that). I didn't belong to the equine part of 4-H because they met at a different arena every week and I didn't have a trailer. But on this lucky day they were meeting at Kit Carson, so I rode Mort over and sat outside the fence, listening with everything I had.
"You can come in and ride if you want honey," the instructor said when she saw me.
I scowled and slunk out of her line of sight. I knew Mort would just make an ass out of me. I couldn't bear the thought of having this professional pointing out what a crappy rider I was.
She shrugged and turned back to the other kids.
I didn't leave though. I was going to hear every word.
"You can't teach your horse to think on the run. Every horse needs to learn at the walk. So does the rider.
"Anybody can run a horse, it takes a horseman to walk," she told them.
She spent the rest of the lesson teaching how to run a direct line to the barrel how to set up for each turn and how to handle the reins.

The whole lesson came down to one sentence for me.
"Anybody can run a horse, it takes a horseman to walk."

I set up my practice barrels and poles in my pasture. They consisted of plain metal barrels, (watch those knees!) and six, dirt filled paint buckets with broom sticks in them.

Mort and I began to walk. It was horrible at first. He slung his head, he danced sideways, he loped in place. I would quit when he would walk through both patterns. Every day, over and over we walked the patterns. Mort calmed down. He began to walk his patterns on a loose rein.
I was finally able to think. I found my pocket in the barrels and how far past the end pole to go before I started my turn. I played with leaning in, then leaning out, around the barrels and through the poles. I finally settled on the middle, it seemed to work the best. I switched out of his bit and into a flat leather mechanical hackamore. I used it only for my speed events, I was already planning for the future.

I pushed it up to a trot. Mort immediately freaked, so I went back to a walk. Trot, walk, trot walk. This walk thing was pretty hard. It was nice too. I could daydream at the walk, admire the sun on my horse's metallic summer coat or just concentrate on the motion of his feet.

I rode bareback most of the time. As we progressed to trotting our patterns on a loose rein I really concentrated on my how I balanced on his back. The better a position I held the calmer Mort stayed. If I sat right, I didn't balance myself with my hands. If I wasn't hanging with my hands, Mort stayed focused and calm. His incessant head toss eased.

I skipped the next few gymkhanas. I was afraid I'd upset him.

We moved up to a lope. At first I had to hold his mane to stay off Mort's face, but eventually I could ride the barrels and poles at ease, still bareback and keeping my loose rein.

We went back to the Friday night gymkhana. I thought I would look the fool, no crop, no wild kicking. We were loping, but so slow. I didn't think I should go any faster though, I didn't want Mort to blow.
I only entered the Barrels and Poles, I didn't want him jazzed up by the Flags or 75 Up and Back.

In we went. I trotted him in, circled around in front of the starting line and got ready to go. Mort's head shot up and he started to jig so I started to trot in circles again, waiting for him to find the loose rein.

"Janet, you planning on running tonight?" The announcer gently teased.

Embarrassed, I smooched him into the lope and headed off to our first barrel. Mort loped quiet and smooth, we turned each barrel without a hitch and loped to the finish line.
I was tickled to death to hear a few approving whistles from the folks from the club and blown away to hear my time. A totally respectable third place. All from being calm.

Poles went even better. We were breathing down Casey Heare and her one-eyed Appy, Kiko's, neck for a close second. Nobody beat Casey and Kiko and we were right there. Mort hadn't even broken a sweat.

Mort and I walked home that night. His ribbons spun and flapped from his bridle in rhythm with his bobbing head. We were finally placing. Because we had slowed down. I thought about the 4-H hand book I had borrowed and had waiting for me at home.
It had a section on correct turns. It talked about backing. It explained leads.

I rubbed my horses neck and admired the red and yellow ribbons fluttering in the night breeze. They were pretty. Blue would be better though.
My thoughts turned to the morning events. My horse was walking after all.

72 comments:

Nagonmom said...

It's odd how things synchronize sometimes. I have been taking lessons for 7 months. I now enjoy the canter, and am proud of how I can "leave him alone" and not "over ride" him. So Monday, at the end of a nice session, trainer starts to teach me how to ride a collected walk. Straight, then circles. After 5 minutes I was more sore than I had been in months!! It was HARD! And I loved it. And I thought the canter was the hard part! Your author's voice makes me smile, I was that kind of kid too.

autumnblaze said...

:) I love the Mort stories. I think they're my favorite. Makes me wish I had a horse as a kid/teen. Ah, but to live vicariously through you is pretty darn good too. :)

gillian said...

You make me feel much better about all the walking around I did with Star. At the time I thought I was chickening out of doing the harder/more important stuff. Eventually I moved on from the walking stuff, when I felt more confident; but even now, I can take her out of her stall and although she's a pretty hot/spooky little thing she'll still pack me around calmly on the rail while we both warm up. I'm a little bit prouder of that now.

(I like to show off by putting my reins under my thigh, closing my eyes and stretching my hands way above my head while we're walking around. I also do it when there's no one to show off to because its an interesting way for me to examine my balance.)

mugwump said...

autumnblaze- Wasn't he beautiful? To this day I can't look at a picture of him and not just sigh at how cool he was.
I can look at other horses from my past and see all their flaws, but not Mort. I'm still as blind as I was at 14.

gillian said...

oh, I meant out of her stall after almost month off. Sadly this has been tested many times.

mugwump said...

gillian-I hear you. My little monsters are doing way too much standing these days.

Esquared said...

Mugs, he is deffinately gorgeous! I'm only so so with conformation, so unfortunately I buy my horses by how they seem to move and their heads, and that is a very gorgeous head!

BTW: My little 3 (now 4) y/o who hadn't been touched before I got him is doing great just like you said he would! He really settled down fast and stopped worrying about what I want but stayed really light and sensitive. We've been riding out bareback all winter and he's pretty amazing except for his leads... do you think that working with the exercises you gave recently, but on rough/uneven/frozen ground would be more harmful than helpful?

Deered said...

Thats a great photo - and he looks like a nice horse.
You did very well to pick up on what the instructor said, especially as a teenager who wants to go faster, and on realising yourself that laying off the face gets you a better ride - I've watched people throw big $$$ away being told that same thing repeatedly and not learning it.

It has always amused me that going slow often gets you the result faster. I was lucky, my Mum learnt that leason for me - she has a wonderful green broke horse that she spent most of her rides on looking at his blaze, as his face was parelell to the ground... She decided to work on her position so that she could ride her next horse properly and low and behold, The Shah, started to get better. He got a lot better - nominated for the Mexico olympics (I think that was the year) for showjumping - unfortunately if he left the country, he would have to spend nearly 2 years coming home, and Mum didn't have the money to do go.

mugwump said...

esquared-some of my best training gets done on rough ground. I won't do hard maneuvers, slides, roll-backs, but anything else goes!.

mugwump said...

I'm almost embarrassed, begging compliments, but not when it comes to Mort. I can be such a dork.

badges blues N jazz said...

REally good story! I am going to have my 13 year old daughter read it. She is at that age where all she wants to do is barrel race, and not do any of the inbetween work!

mocharocks said...

Mugs, he's adorable! I'm the same way about my mini of all things. She's long backed, cow hocked, big headed, and has an underbite among other things and I think she is the cutest most adorable thing ever to walk the earth (it helps that she is super sweet).

Barrels look like so much fun, I think as soon as all this snow melts and my ring is ridable again I'm going to put out some cones or some Strongid C buckets and see what Mocha can do :)

Shanster said...

What a great story! Bet that sure felt good...

I don't think there is anything wrong with still being blindly in love with Mort. What a great horse!!

Cheers!

SOSHorses said...

I so love the stories you tell of Mort, your childhood and Sonita. I do always appreciate your wisdom, but I love the stories. Sometimes I find I learn as much from them as I do your advise.

Jasmine said...

I too LOVE the Mort stories. Please keep them coming!

Reading the Mort stores takes me back to when I got my first horse, a green OTTB. Thinking back I sometimes wonder how I survived. XD

That is a beautiful picture too. I know what I'm digging for next time I'm at my parent's house!

Jocelyn said...

It's amazing what we learn by slowing down and going back to the basics when what we are doing isnt working!

Star and I go through that A LOT .
I just love your Mort stories. I have a ton of Muffett stories I have yet to tell!

Heidi the Hick said...

This is awesome. Truly. My saddle club was similar: performance in the morning, speed games in the afternoon. I was one of the rare riders who rode the same horse all day. I did trail with him too. He wasn't spectacular at anything but I was proud of him for doing it all.

I still miss him 2 1/2 years after he's gone and I know what you mean about being love-blind... I think I'll always be love blind for that horse.

This would be when I was about 21 until 33 or so, after which I got sick of all the packing and driving. When I started, Champ was wild. He was good at home, of course, but I'd never asked him for much.

We started off the games classes at a trot. We trotted everything. We got laughed at. We managed to place if most of the other riders knocked everything down. Eventually we got it together and won ourselves a few firsts. I'll admit, it still depended largely on another rider screwing up, but it felt good to keep my fiery little half-ay-rab all dialed in and going where I wanted him to go.

Actually the best part was that at the same time he was doing lead-line with my small children....
in the most lovely calm walk.

My first thought when I say that photo was how relaxed and businesslike he looks! Like he's doing the job he was meant to do. Good, good, good looking guy!!! I totally get why you loved him so much.

jalin33 said...

Great Story....It totally took me back in time...I ran barrels and did reining at that age too and was in 4H...ahhhhh what nice memories...times were lovely back then and it was so FUN! You made me remember a lot, thank you. Mort looked to be lovely and what a nice horse. My first mare was hotter then a two dollar pistol just like Mort and very fast. Fortunately my 4H leader was a barrel racer and the other one was a reiner so they taught me a lot. I used to take my horse on the trail daily and work hills to build her up. I rarely did any complete reining or gaming patterns to practice, just pieces of them and usually in the unfenced arena that we had...it never felt like work and like you I rode bareback all the time...oh those were the days!

jalin33 said...

One more thing, I don't think you are blind about Mort, he looked to have been put together nice. My mare was nothing to write home about confirmation-wise but boy she was handy. I could never do pleasure classes with her she was just too fast even when she was going slow but I did do trail with her even though on the rail we were fast....I didn't care I loved her to pieces. My friend Karen had a horse that was a wonderful pleasure horse so what we did was I would do the classes I was good at and she would cheer for me and she would do the classes she was good at which were opposite from mine (halter and pleasure) and I would cheer for her...seemed like a good arrangment at the time and we made a pretty good team...plus we had a bit of sportsmanship lesson. I had a hard day today, thanks for making me think about such happy times!

Justaplainsam said...

Great story!!

I now aparently have the reverse of your problem. Im ok at the walk and the jog but loose it while at the lope! Nothing seems to work and the horses get more and more fustrated with me. We spent 20 min working on the lope tonight and im a bit better than last week but I cannot multitask like I can at the jog or the walk.

Like I can keep myself ok but then the horse is out of wack so I get her going better then were off our circle.... any ideas that might help??

KD said...

Your stories are making me want to take some lessons. Working from books works to a point, but having someone who knows what they're doing and can watch you has to be helpful. We could sure use some finessing.

I didn't realize that that hunk of horse in the photo was really Mort. What a handsome tank he was !!

Holly said...

one of the things I seem to like best about your Mort stories is how you found a way to MAKE this work for you. How much you overcame on your own.

He's a handsome boy Mugs. I love the look on his face in that photo and the way that ear is turned to you listening.

mugwump said...

Holly-He was the only horse I had. Nobody ever told (luckily) me you had to have a different horse for different events.
I was a kid with no money and a crazy desire to compete.
It was truly the beginning of what made so obsessive as a trainer later in life.

Deered said...

"Holly-He was the only horse I had. Nobody ever told (luckily) me you had to have a different horse for different events. "

And i still think the same way - especially for the lower level competition. I was brought up that wway - hell, our ponies (14.1hh QQH x and a 14.1hh Arab) were able to go and do morning classes, round the ring hunters, have a "grab strap" put on and the running martingale and any boots/wraps taken off, and go back into teh arena and do a riding for the disabled display... within 15 minutes of finishing a round jumping 3ft high brush fences!

Yes we only used 2 out of our 3 to do that, the 3rd was a bit to firey to let teh RDA kids ride, however those ponies could showjump, hunt, event, show, hack (trail ride) and round up sheep... and keep us occupied for hours. Other people did have multiple horses for different things, however we didn't have the cash, so if the ponies didn't mind doing it and seemed to have fun doing it - we did it.

(And I think none of those ponies were ever ridden indoors - I rode for 15 or so years and still haven't been in an indoor arena - there just weren't any around us!

It made life a lot of fun!

TooTiredToRide said...

very inspiring. :)


tootiredtoride.blogspot.com
www.hensleyranch.com

Holly said...

Mugs,

Nobody ever told (luckily) me you had to have a different horse for different events.

it probably would not have mattered, you would have still worked with him because he was your heart. Offer you another horse? Sure, but don't ask you to give up Mort. That would never have happened.

jalin33 said...

I think back then most of us only had one horse and most of us worked our butts off to have that one horse. Also people didn't ride with "trainers" like they do today, sure folks took lessons but by and large everyone worked hard with their horse and focused on their horses strengths. It was more unusual to see someone with more then one horse then it was to see a kid doing everything with their beloved horse. I think it made us better riders because we learned to do everything for ourselves and we were motivated TO LEARN instead of depend on a trainer to do everything for us. We also learned to work with each other and help each other, which taught us all something about sportsmanship. It was a lot of fun back then....

mugwump said...

jalin-It was possible to afford a horse, keep it in a neighborhood pasture and take reasonable care of it on baby sitting earnings then too. Not so much now.
We had a "posse" of neighborhood girls who tore around together, BUT nobody shared any information AT ALL.Which is why I got the feeling everybody was in on something I wasn't.
I learned each scrap of information by gleaning what I could from overheard conversations and watching the really good people as closely as I could without being creepy.
I developed entire training programs off of one overheard sentence. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
I read like a fiend, but the best help I got over the years came from trainers.My list in order of when I worked or talked with them is, Mark Reynor, Mike Craig, Monte Foreman, Devin Warren, Larry Trocha,Ray Hunt, The Big K and Michelle Shupe. There are lots more who I've had the opportunity to learn from through a day, a conversation, or a thought.
Some were old hands, some were great trainers, some were bastards, but I learned from all of them.
I became a trainer because it was the best way to learn.
I have many issues with the trainer set, but that was also the world where I finally had doors open to me and information freely shared.
You were lucky learning from your friends. Mine didn't give anything away until I was well into adulthood, and then it was because I had information they wanted.

autumnblaze said...

mugs - He was a very handsome boy! I was checking him out in that picture. The beautiful thing is how much you were able to teach each other. As a kid, especially early teen, I was fiesty but quiet, awkward, very unsure of myself and related best to animals. (Really at 26 not sure too much has changed...:) ) Had I had my own horse then, I know I'd have been just as wild and completely, totally in love as you were and still are.

Fyyahchild said...

I got my first pony when I was 13. He was a 13.2 hand POA with a fierce personality. He had more spirit and heart than any other horse I've ever known. He was so fast and he tried so hard for me. I don't think I've ever had another horse like that. The first year we trail rode everywhere and I started learning to jump in my dirt driveway. My next door neighbor was a high point show jumper with one of the local associations. I think I must have given her heart attacks jumping my crazy pony 3 feet in our hard dirt driveway with no helmet. Heck, half the time I didn't even use my saddle because it was western and the horn hit my stomach. But I loved that little guy and I trusted him. Once while trail riding, my friend's 16 hand appy threw her and took off. I think everyone thought she was gone for good, but Applejack and I took off after her. It wasn't long before he caught up with that giant beast and let me get close enough to grab her reins and stop her. I can't even imagine doing that with my TBs now.

When I was 14 I started working at a lesson barn to afford board and lessons. My neighbor had finally talked some sense into me about learning to jump the right way. I give her credit for trying to educate me without ever being mean. The other kids at the barn were all pony clubbers who rode hunters. I admit a certain amount of jealousy at their beautiful, expensive mounts. At the same time I would never have traded my pony for one of theirs. I figured out quickly that I knew how to ride in a way that they didn't. You could put me on anything and I could stay on. The trainer had me working her green welsh ponies by the time I was 15, a priviledge that she didn't extend to her other kids. It made me feel better about being "the poor kid" that had to work for everything. The other girls weren't always nice to me but once I started working with the ponies no one else got to ride it elevated my status a bit. I really didn't care...I just wanted to ride.

Once a month in the summers, just for fun, the trainer would have a game day. It was pretty funny to see all of those fancy pony club kids trying to ride the speed events on their slow quiet hunter lesson ponies. In the meantime I was learning to really control my pony. We competed at a 3 day event and got a passable score at dressage. We had the best time for cross country. Overall because of our dressage score we got 3rd. It was amazing. But at game days we slaughtered the competion. Barrels, poles, flags, ribbon races...that pony loved them all. I really wouldn't trade those days for all the 10k ponies in the world.

BAD NEWS - I fell off my mare again! I landeded on my knee and I think I'm out of the show this weekend. It's pretty swollen. I don't know what my problem is with her. I just can't seem to stay on her when she spooks. I'm feeling pretty discouraged.

Candy'sGirl said...

Holly-He was the only horse I had. Nobody ever told (luckily) me you had to have a different horse for different events.

Haha, see, being told I *can't* do this or that with my horse just makes me go home and teach him to do it. He's a smart, athletic little Arab and can do just about anything I ask him to do. As soon as we master cantering on a loose rein he's going to be learning poles, barrels and flags, to be sane on trails and dressage right now. Since we'll be at the shows anyway, we'll probably enter some of those morning pleasure classes. We'll probably try a limited distance endurance ride this year too. When he's older (he's just under 4yo) he's going to learn to jump and play polo and anything else that catches my eye...or that I'm told we *can't* do!

jalin33 said...

Yup, it was a different time back then. We were fortunate that our 4H leaders were in the same barn as us and they pushed us to be a team and help each other. The grown-ups in our barn would stop us and correct us if we were doing anything wrong, and there were a lot of adults in our riding club who donated time. We had a senior and a junior 4H club and the "senior" kids were expected to help the junior kids. I guess I was pretty lucky all in all to have grown up where there was a lot of active 4H/riding club adults willing to give their time. As I got older I did the same as you did and was a fly on the wall as much as possible when anyone was talking horses. I went to every horse related activity I could, sometimes without my horse just so I could listen, and like you, I read every horse book or magazine I could get my hands on. Whenever the opportunity came up to go to a training barn I would have rode on the roof of the car to be included. I remember the first time I went to a "real" quarter horse barn, one of the ladies in our barn was dating the trainer and he was a cutting/reining guy and she brought me to watch him work since I was the reining person in our club...I was SO excited to be allowed to be there and after that I went every chance I could. The day finally came when he came to my barn and offered to ride my mare, I was completely beside myself with excitement. I used to get to watch him cut cows sometimes and those were my favorite visits, his horses name was Blunder Bar and he was a national cutting champion, oh what a horse he was. When I look back now, I worked so hard cleaning stalls and babysat my butt off to be able to do what I did, but I never cared about the work, all that ever mattered was my horse. I think that the age we were at back then it felt in general like everyone was in on something I wasn't....but more so with the horses because they were so important to me. I am a bit jealous of your opportunity with the Big K, I love reading about it because it must have been the opportunity of a lifetime and to have a mentor like that...phew, THAT is something to be totally envious of and I am.

autumnblaze said...

Mugs - I'd love to hear any advice related to Fyyahchild's issue with her mare!

Fyyahchild said...

autumnblaze - I don't know if I gave Mugs enough to comment on. Maybe we could talk more about dealing with hot horses in more detail. Sonita was obviously a hot horse and so was Mort so maybe she's got some advice. Do you train a horse not to spook or do you just learn to ride through it when they do? How do you stay brave enough to keep getting back on and when do you decide enough is enough and maybe it's not a good fit? My mare is the horse in my avatar. She's an amazing mover and well trained...probably the nicest horse I've ever owned. I don't want to give up. I actually prefer hot horses but I've never fallen off any of the horses I've ridden this consistantly. She doesn't give any warning. She doesn't stare or tense up or anything that most horses typically do. One minute she's fine, the next minute the truck we just rode past four times is a good reason to bolt sideways and hop around like an idiot. I think it's the sideways thing that's killing me, BTW. I just haven't gotten my balance completely back after my 5 year riding break. It's coming slowly but I still have a lot of weight to lose and that doesn't help. Once my knee is better, I'm going to start riding her in my western saddle to see if I can stay on better that way.

autumnblaze said...

Fyyachild said -

'Do you train a horse not to spook or do you just learn to ride through it when they do? How do you stay brave enough to keep getting back on and when do you decide enough is enough and maybe it's not a good fit?'

I think that's exactly what I have tried to ask and end up too emotional about a recent spill or incident to come out with it.

mocharocks said...

What a great topic! Mocha's pretty sensitive, a little hot and spooky. She never does anything super bad and I've never come off her, but as I get older I'm less and less comfortable when all of a sudden the head goes up, the snorting/prancing starts and she suddenly seems to grow from 15.1 to 17.2 :)

fyyahchild - I'm a dressage rider, but a few years ago I bought a western/stock saddle hybrid for trail riding. Being able to grab that horn and have my legs snugged into the thigh blocks when Mo acts up helps with my confidence, so maybe your western saddle will help too :)

mugwump said...

OK, next post will cover it...I'm catching up at the paper today, so it'll have to be this week-end....

love to ride said...

Mugwump, the Mort stories are my favorite.
After completing an exercise, did Mort ever look up at you on his back as is if to say, "How was that?"

Redsmom said...

I too love the Mort stories. He is a handsome fellow with a great, big heart. I'm glad he had you because you tried to understand him. Others would not have been that patient. You also make me appreciate that even though we don't have fancy things, now, like digital cable and all, we have our horses and our times together and our nice local club. Your story will also help me keep my mouth chut as my daughter is training the new mare herself and they are going ever so slowly and carefully through the patterns. She will run when she is ready and the mare is ready. I do better with a hands off approach and just waiting to be called upon if needed. I feel lucky that we are still in a rual area of modest means where our little western club has one or two teachers who teach all the kids and also ride at the shows. The kids all know each other and root for each other. Only a few have more than one horse. I, too, look wistfully at morning ("front-end") classes as my big old TB throwback QH can't do a short strided canter and pins his ears at any horse who gets within 15 feet of him. He's such a grouchy man. But you can put the littlest kid on him and the worst thing he will do is walk back to where the adults are and stand still.

Redsmom said...

P.S. Matt probably already knows how to do a rollback, so I'm off to find steps on how to cue for it. Whenever I want to learn something new, it turns out Matty already knows how - the benefits of a 23 year old lesson horse.

Anonymous said...

Fyyahchild, it sounds to me like your mare is being a b#*&%. One of the horses I had was like that, goes past an obstacle fine 4-5 times then decides it is a monster, I came to the conclusion that he was bored. So then it was time to make the ride more interesting and less monotonous. That said with a horse like that you can NEVER let your guard down.

Redsmom said...

Fyyachild, I feel for you. I don't have any good advice. I retired my insane idiot and now I just give him peppermints and love on him. I made room for a new horse for my daughter even though I don't have the space or the money. Miraculously, now that I'm riding old Matty, I no longer have canter fear.

Whoot! I looked up rollbacks and sure enough, we already know how to do that. I've been calling it a pivot.

Holly said...

I think the Mort and Sonita stories dredge up memories for all of us over a certain age. I love reading how others grew up, the horses they grew up with etc.

kel said...

Even though we are states apart and there is an age difference, isn't funny how similar lives we all have? We had the Friday evening play days. Loved them. I remember when I started showing and I was still doing the play days how the other riders would look at at me. To become more competitive I decdied that I wouldn't do the play days anymore. Took a lot of crap from friends for that. :)

I love the picture of you and Mort. When I see photo like that it always makes me think... we didn't use sport boots, we fed hay and cob, we didnt' supplement, etc. and our horses looked and performed great, they were sound, had good feet, etc. As a kid I can remember riding the crap out of my horse on all kinds of surfaces and my shoer never reset a shoe, most of the time they were worn through at the toe. Those horses were sounder and in better shape than any I ride now. What is up with that? If we had done all the stuff that we do now, would Mort and Rusty (my childhood mount) still be around and sound?

mugwump said...

Kel- my boss at work and I were talking about that very thing. We rode the shoes off our horses every set.
We didn't think about the ground they were on (except pavement) whether they had air, if they were tired....and they were fine.
I really don't know. Except I think consistant hard work is better for them than easy work in spurts (same with people)
We also rode horses bred for bone and feet (if the were bred for anything). Mort was a poco bueno grandson on both sides, out of and by nothing special...

gillian said...

Fyyahchild, autumnblaze, If you haven't read (re-read) them already these are some posts that I've found helpful in the past when it comes to spooky/hot horsies:

http://mugwumpchronicles.blogspot.com/2008/10/laura-crum-genetics-and-bolting.html

http://mugwumpchronicles.blogspot.com/2008/08/warp-drive.html

http://mugwumpchronicles.blogspot.com/2009/01/whoa-what-ive-learned-about-stopping-my.html

http://mugwumpchronicles.blogspot.com/2008/08/i-spent-day-at-aqha-show-yesterday.html

sometimes I just re-read them and meditate on them for a while. :D

moosefied said...

I like these stories a lot. The honesty of feeling is there, nothing artificial, not added on later but straight from the moment. That's hard to do when writing.

Nagonmom said...

Fyyahchild, like Redsmom, I have given up on my spook-and-dumpster. I don't bounce well at 53, and he was getting better at getting rid of me. (Western saddle) Life is too short to ride ugly horses. Although if my trainer/riding instructor would accept my dumpster (rejected by history only), I would spend the cash. He is so cute!! But I don"t think he sees very well. Or maybe it's his brain....I just got tired after 4 years of putting my health at risk.Can't wait for Mugwump's say on this!!

slippinsweetlena said...

Growing up, I never had a club to go ride with. It was riding with my neighbors, my sister, mom, or, most of the time, by myself. I would just go through some of the steep hills and explore in the trees and pretend I was lost and finding new territory. I lived too far out in the country to be able to just ride to the local club. I would ride to peoples houses tie the horse up and have a snack with them, then go back home. Besides that, the appy that was my sisters, would scramble in the trailer, so the only way to take him anywhere was to load him in the 2 horse backwards! we got some pretty strange looks from people that passed us! The 4-H club I was involved in had a horse group, but all we did was learn about the horse, no one trained horses or anything like that. But we did have a show ONCE a year for the local fair. They had halter, showmanship, pleasure and trail. I showed in all of them and placed in most of them. After the show, one of the girls that I grew up with in school had a barrel horse so she set up the barrels and schooled her horse. Well my sister and I were watching her and timing her...I think she ran like a 19. well my sister went out there on her 21yr old leapord Appy, Bareback and and ran a 16...man did it piss that other girl off! We laughed all the way home! The other girl always had the advantage of better horses, and we thought it was great that my sisters horse beat her and he has never even done barrels before!

Susan said...

Fyahchild, nagonmom, autumn blaze, Two words-- neutral pelvis. Check out Peggy Cummings' work, and Sally Swift, Deb Bennett talks about it, too. Makes a spook easier to stay in the middle of and to ride through and push into forward movement from,and in time you lose your tension about it,ergo it doesn't happen as much. I'm sure Mugwump has some real advice for you.
Mugwump, I do think you are a true storyteller, and a wonderful, wonderful writer. Thank you for spending the time and effort to give to us all that you do.

Smurfette said...

I am often moved by your writing, but this story made tears run down my face. Dont' have a clue why.

Austen said...

I know I've told you how much I enjoy your stories before, but I just felt the need to repeat it.

It's probably not good for my work ethic that I'll put a design aside to read your blog, but it IS good for my head.

Your Mort stories remind me of my favorite lesson horse when I was a kid. He was a quarter horse, wicked fast and wicked wicked. I've never met a horse who could buck like this guy, but for some reason we clicked. That doesn't mean I didn't regularly have to run him into full grown corn fields to stop him from running away with me ... oops :)

Also, I need to apologize for never responding to your comment. I'm so glad you liked our recipe! I try to keep things pretty simple; I started writing a food blog for my friends who can hardly boil water.

Looking forward to more of your great reads!

Fyyahchild said...

Thanks everyone. I'm still hanging in there for now in hopes I can figure this out.

I did feel slightly better this morning and took her to the show anyway. She was good most of the day and nice to ride in her classes. We even got a 5th in English Pleasure so at least I know we weren't dead last.
Then some horses from our barn showed up for the afternon classes. They went to get a stall and bitchy gray mare wasn't too happy about it so she reared and I fell off AGAIN. At least I didn't get hurt this time and it was pretty low key. Nobody freaked about it, I was fine and she didn't take off running around the show. I really promise I'm a half decent rider and don't lose my seat that often. I think this time I was so afraid of falling on my injured knee I just kinda flopped off onto my back.

I'm really paying attention to her and I do think the harder she's working the less trouble she is. In the ring she was a doll. I had a friend hop on her at lunch to school her a bit in the warm up ring since my leg was shot. She said about the same thing. You can feel that mare's mind going a mile a minute. The only time she stood still today was in our end of class lineups. Between classes we had to work or she was a nutcase.

I'm SO glad I did it though. Best moment of the day was seeing my sister clap and cry over our 5th place ribbon.

Sorry for the long one. My knee hurts so I'm hitting the hay. Heehee.

jalin33 said...

Fyyahchild your last post answered some questions for me, I have been thinking quite a bit about you and your lovely mare. This mare has gotten into your head and she has you figured out. You need to mix up what you are doing with her and get her brain redirected and engaged so she is paying attention to you, and not bored and naughty. I would suggest that you start doing exercises with her designed to get her thinking, do some pattern work-circles, figure 8's, put up cones or buckets and do a serpentine through them at a walk and trot, put up an L shaped backup and make her back through it without touching the rails, put up some other trail obstacles and stop your circle, do the obstacle and then go to doing figure eights, put your western saddle on if it will make you feel more secure and then do everything and anything you can to keep this mares brain engaged and busy, and off of being naughty. She is smart and she is bored. When you are working in the ring do lots of circles but not the same way or in the same spot every time, read Mugs post about circles and try to fine tune yours, do figure eights, zig zag your line, practice turning her off her hind end using the fence as a tool until she can turn over her hind end like a reining horse in slow motion, teach her new things, they will only help her be a better horse, in short, stop doing ring work the normal way you do it, cut her through the center at a moments notice, mix it up, shake it up and get her paying attention to you. There are a million things you can do with this mare and all of them will only make her better. Practice your stops using your seat. Mix up the length of your rides, take her in at first and only ride 10-20 minutes doing some of the exercises I have mentioned, and then get off before she is naughty. If she is good, resist the temptation to push it longer at first. Gradually increase the time, always stopping while she is still being good and keeping your ride mixed up. This mare has your subconscious wigged out, whether you realize it or not,that happens to the best of us. You are waiting for the blow up now, and the mare knows it, she also knows how to unseat you and it has become a game with her. By engaging her brain (and yours) in some new and other tasks, you will break what has now become a cycle and a fight that you can't win, at least not the way you are doing things. With each successful ride you will reclaim your confidence and get her paying attention to you. These are not true "spooks", this is a bored, very smart, very naughty mare....I have used the techniques I have mentioned in retraining more then a few naughty horses for folks, it sounds to me like you have the riding ability to do this for yourself, you just need to rethink your rides. Another thing to do is visualize your entire ride before you get on, every single time, think about what exercises you are going to do, what your goal is for that day, and then stop when you have accomplished it. Good job going to the show, I am sure that was hard for you to do. I would take a break from competing until you have this mare back 100% under your control and keep her in an environment where you can continue to engage her brain. Good Luck!

jalin33 said...

One More Thing, with regard to the mention that your mare would not stand still all day at the show...naughty and spoiled. She should stand quietly whenever you tie her, if she doesn't I would suggest that she spend some time every single day on a "Patience Post". All that is, is a post or a tree to tie your mare to. Start out leaving her tied for a short time, every single day, walk away, don't stand there and talk to her, or brush her, or tell her everything is okay, or to whoa or anything else, just let her stand there and figure out that she has to be quiet and behave herself. I am insistent about a horse standing quietly while tied where ever we are. If you are at a horse show, it is a reasonable expectation to expect her to stand tied to the trailer for however long is necessary between her classes all day long. She should not be manipulating your day that way, so that you feel like you have to entertain her all day long between her classes. Standing quietly when tied is manners 101 and it is the first thing I teach my youngsters. You must have manners and respect.

bedazzled said...

Mugwump, as usual, your blog is helpful, informative AND entertaining. If you can't keep someone's interest, they don't learn. I learn something from you every time you post.

I asked you about my 6 yo green foxhunter and his desire to go up when he can't move his feet. Your answer, to move his feet, reassured me that I was doing the right thing for him. We're hunting and our feet can stay still for longer periods of time. Or maybe he's just tired of me making him move his feet and he had rather stand still!

I have a new question, about bits. Baby Boy (although he's getting a little old for that nickname) can be ridden in a halter on a trail ride with no problem. He moves off my leg and seat, stops with my seat, backs with leg motion, I don't have to use reins to do whatever. I can ride him in a small area with only a string around his neck. I can rate his speed in all gaits with no trouble. In other words, I think I have pretty good control. He's actually pretty lazy and I have to be very creative to get him to want to do anything that requires what he considers work. He's way too smart and clever.

In the hunt field, I still have the same control with seat, legs, etc., as far as moving his feet. The problem is rating our gait. He has a lovely big walk, really tracks up under himself. He gets up once we start moving at the trot and then pulls until we slod down and he gets calmer. At the canter, he gets stronger, still under conrol, but pulls more. I never feel as if he's running away, no bucks, rears, hissy fits, he just wants to go faster.

In an ideal world, we would have a slow field, but we don't, so I have no choice but to ride in the faster group. I know in time, this too shall pass, but in the meantime, I don't want pulling to become a habit. I've ridden him a a snaffle, tender touch, and a Myler C3 bit. No difference in the hunt field between any bit.

I'm not in favor of bigger bits to solve a training problem. But the only way to get used to the hunt field is to hunt, nothing else really compares. What do I do? Find a bit that stops the pulling and only use it for hunting? If yes, what bit? Let him pull and wait for it to stop? Help !!!

Bedazzled

Longtrot said...

Is there a why to read the 2008 achives without having to scroll down and hit "older post" button each page?

jalin33 said...

Bedazzled, I am also not in favor of using bits to solve problems. It sound like this boy is a dream and like you two are a real team. Have you ever used an Indian Bitless Bridle? It is like a hackamore but much gentler. You will have sufficient control with it and I bet it will solve your pulling problem. What I am talking about is basically the same as a Dr. Cook but I have one that is much nicer and very gentle (and MUCH cheaper). I use it on old horses who are sour, young horses who are green and naughty horses with the same exact results, they drop their head and relax. The way these are designed gives you a lot of control but they are not harsh at all. I have never had a horse pull in one, even when upset or excited. They are wonderful getting a horse to bend and yield and also to teach a horse to neck rein. I will almost guarantee it will solve your pulling problem.

jalin33 said...

BTW, The one I have is not a Nat Horsmenship rope halter/bridle...it is a true Indian bitless and can be used with any headstall and reins, it is very nicely made and looks really nice with all types of tack.

Ginger102005 said...

Love the picture, and the story. So after that you and Mort tore up the evening events huh?

autumnblaze said...

jalin33 - Your post is helpful and actually rather on target for my boy as well. Yup - in my head. MOSTLY on trails. He's smart and while he doesn't TRY and unseat me, if I let him do his thing mentally, he finds something to do/worry about/fidget about etc. etc. I went out this weekend with a plan and a middle ground, if you will, between ring and trails. His HUGE field. I relax because I know he knows it, its got safe footing and there is such a small change of something spook worthy, I don't even think about it (huge key). However, it is much larger than the ring and should he decide to get frisky, there's a lot more room to be naughty. I also had a plan. This boy gets bored quickly in the ring, he's 15, and has been there done that with showing. He knows the drills and even mixing them up, he can get bored. However, I'm getting better at mixing them and keeping him engaged and focused. When he's focused we're good. He was so yesterday good, instead of hitting the trail once he was done, I called it a day. It had been too great. Next time we'll hit the trail after we ride. I also didn't need a crop (he likes to be goofy at first to TRY and get out of work). We're getting there however I think I need mostly advice on keeping him focused and engaged on the trails. However, I want him to enjoy it and be able to throw the reins out a bit more than during work, ya' know? I haven't come off in awhile now but damn he can teleport when he does spook...

autumnblaze said...

Bedazzled - You actually made me think of something else he does with boredom - PULL ON ME. He only does it at the walk, and I know he's playing with the bit (being mouthy is his greatest vice - for that reason I think he might actually HATE a bitless bridle). My instructor says he's pulling for more slack to let the bit hang so he can play with it better. Goof ball. I don't want to change bits, in fact he loves his bit (eggbutt snaffle). However, I'd like him to stop yanking me. I just try and not give when he yanks like that. It's not really solved anything fully though...

jalin33 said...

Good Morning Autumnblaze; I love to hear when someone has a great ride, it sure makes it all worthwhile doesn't it? I use the trail to school horses actually more then the ring, particularly horses who tend to get bored and especially the been there done that guys. What I do is instead of doing exercises in the ring, I do them on the trail, I use everything available to me while on the trail, I zig zag through the trees, I change direction paying attention to my circle, then I change it back, I use every hill I see, going up and then coming down, to build up muscle and keep them engaged, I seek out uneven terrain so that they are paying attention and learning balance (plus it is good for their foot blood circulation), I watch for things like fallen trees to navigate around and over. If I have a naughty horse, I have been known to run them right into a tree to get their attention, not to hurt them (and it doesn't), but it sure gets them focused on me in a hurry. The trail is a great place to work on good turns, riding using your seat, work on good straight stops. Pretty soon the horse is enjoying himself because he isn't going in circles, he has new things to look at, and he has to pay attention because he doesn't know what is next, you are enjoying yourself because you are out in the outdoors and the end result is your horse is relaxed and enjoying himself. Before you know it, you are both so relaxed you can toss out your rein and enjoy the day together. As a matter of fact, I get my youngsters out on the trail ASAP, first ponying them behind another horse, then ground driving (which is great exercise for me)over hill and dale...there is nothing like a changing environment to keep a horse engaged and interested, by the time I hop on they have seen so much and been exposed to so much, it usually is a non event. For your horse wanting to play with the bit, what about an eggbutt with a roller (or sometimes called a cricket), my old dressage horse found that to be very soothing and it actually cut down on his playing and pulling to get the bit where he wanted it. Your horse sounds wonderful, and he is a lucky boy to have someone who pays attention to him!

jalin33 said...

OOPS!!! I just ran back in from the barn because I realized that something I said in my last post needs clarification. When I said I will run a naughty horse into a tree I did NOT MEAN that I "Run" as in canter or gallop them into a tree. How I should have written it was, I will BUMP them into a tree...for example...you are going along and they are jigging, hopping, or looking anywhere but where you are going...when this occurs I will simply allow them to bump their shoulder right into a tree...usually it shocks them big time and gets them focusing on me...how I do it is simply move them closer and since they are not paying attention they bump into it and get surprised every time, then they tend to pay attention. For a jigging/hopping horse I generally will do circles or zig zag through the trees until they relax rather then fight with them or pull on their mouth. Okay, back to poop scooping...I didn't want to come back in and find any gasping people at the prospect of me "running" anyone into a tree.

autumnblaze said...

jalin33 - I'll look into that bit. Thanks for the advice He's the mouthiest booger alive - not mean in anyway just kisses, nibbles etc. If it weren't so damn cute... he may very well love that. :)

I think I'm too chickenshit to do much other than walk out of the ring - and I worry about the footing. I remember the first time I went on a trail with my old instructor (and maybe ever on the trail...)on an bomb proof doll of a mare. She cracked up at me when the mare slipped on a rock a little and says 'They have four feet for a reason, if one slips, unlike us, they have 3 more to catch themselves. Just relax.' I think I need to run that through my head a bit more. He knows the trails we're on and I think is looking for deer to jump up under his nose in certain places (as they have). I'll try and start keeping his brain busier especially there too. In hopes he stops looking for monsters. Transitioning from the ring to his field is helpful. It's getting me used to more uncertain terrain at different gaits but eliminates the worry of bambi's sudden arrival.

autumnblaze said...

jalin33 - Hahahaha. I knew what you meant but I guess you can't be too careful how some people will read stuff. You couldn't pay to me deliberately run a horse into a tree. I've bumped him into the rail to do that. Falling off is bad enough. Falling with the horse at speed and a tree involved... my heavens, no thanks!

jalin33 said...

autumnblaze, now that I am in here I decided to have a grill cheese....on the trail just walk, you can do all those things at a walk and really, walking is very good to get you working together and listening to each other. Go for very short walks and as you get more comfortable make them longer...your field is a good place to start and a great place to do circles, zig zags etc...you lose nothing doing these things at a walk. "In your head" can happen whether you get dumped or not, riding is mental as much as it is physical, and all of us at one time or another hit a brain block. Yup, I have a hard time imagining anyone "running" into anything on purpose but I was afraid someone would read it that way, and gasping in horror! LOL!

autumnblaze said...

I should also add that it's helpful because our ring is maybe 1/4 to 1/2 of a regular size ring. It's nice to do larger circles and pick up a little more momentum. Plus, he's fattened back up over the winter and it's not as tough on him as the tighter circles. :)

I will definitely start trying more maneuvers on the trail. :)

autumnblaze said...

Oh and grilled cheese is always a good idea! ;)

Fyyahchild said...

Jailin33 - Thanks. You're are correct and she's got my number right now. Too bad for her she doesn't know how stubborn I am. :)

You're right about changing my plan of attack too. When she's focused she's good and I've been working on changing things up to keep her occupied. Circles, sepentines, figure 8s, leg yeilds, shoulders in, etc. Last week we even trotted the barrels the kids left in the arena and that was good. What happens is when she relaxes I've been taking her back out to the rail to try to get her to go around nicely, and now that I'm thinking about it, that's always when she blows up. I will remember to plan to get off before that happens and see how it goes.

Also, once she settled in she was standing tied to the trailer alright. It was when I was on her trying to wait at the gait for my class that she wouldn't stand still. I just let her walk instead of fighting with her to stand still. I took her in their round pen and let her walk or trot as long as it was relaxed and felt productive. It was just inconvenient for me with my injury but maybe it was still the best thing for her just to keep her moving? She stood quietly in line at the end of her classes when it really counted.

My biggest problem is now I'm second guessing if I've made the right choice about what to do. Like, is it better to fight about standing when that's what I want, or just keep walking if its safer and keeps her calm?

Fyyahchild said...

autumnblaze - Yay, on the good ride and good for you for recognizing to get off while the getting was good. :)

jalin33 said...

Fyyahchild; I think you were correct to let her move while waiting for your class, no sense in causing a blow up, possibly effecting someone else's horse and then head into the class already in a bad place. BUT that does not mean I am excusing the fact that she won't stand still because that is something she should be doing consistently. ALWAYS do your homework at home, as much as possible and what I mean by that is, if standing still when you want her to, is an issue, work on that at home, not at a show. You can incorporate standing still at the gate, and anywhere else into your mix it up plan and I think you should because this mare should be able to stand quietly anytime, anywhere. If you do your homework, you won't have issues at the shows because you will have made a plan, worked on it and overcome the problem. My rule with my students has always been, if you haven't completed your homework then hold off on competing because the show ring is not the place to school and teach your horse. Mugs and Mort are a good example, and there is a lesson for you and everyone else here, figure your troubles out and work on them at home, work on them until you are consistent and confident and then and only then head back to the show ring; and when you do go back to the show ring, stay in your comfort zone and do what you have worked on, nothing more, nothing less. Don't second guess yourself too much because you will undermine your self. Once you are consistently riding this mare without blow ups by mixing things up and getting her brain engaged, you can gradually reintroduce working on the rail, but I will caution you that this may be a horse who will sour on you all over again if you expect her to only do rail work. This kind of a horse needs to be challenged and kept on her toes. I am not saying you will never be able to do rail-work, I am saying you will always need to plan your rides carefully and keep her engaged. This is not the kind of horse who will willingly go numbly round and round doing endless rail work. Also, part of this is simple discipline which will improve with a consistent plan and consistent work. Don't let being stubborn cause you to turn this into a fight because that will accomplish nothing and do much more harm then good. Good Luck and chat with all of us as you improve (because I know you are going to improve together).

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